Area woman named African ambassador Schoonover appointment to Togo caps long career

September 22, 1997|By Karen Masterson | Karen Masterson,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

A Baltimore area native recently was named ambassador to the Republic of Togo, a tiny West African country. If confirmed, Brenda Brown Schoonover will become one of 163 U.S. ambassadors worldwide.

Schoonover, 58, graduated from Catonsville High School in the 1950s and Morgan State College in 1961. That year, Schoonover was among the first group of Peace Corps volunteers sent to the Philippines under President John F. Kennedy's new international volunteer program.

In 1967, during an interview with The Sun, the then-Brenda Brown said she applied to the Peace Corps hoping to go to Africa. Instead, she landed in the Southwest Pacific, where she taught English and started a library with 6,000 books, most donated by Baltimore-based organizations.

Schoonover has since lived in several countries of Africa, including the East African country of Tanzania, where she ran the Peace Corps' teaching program, and the North African country of Tunisia, where she was the budget officer at the U.S. Embassy.

In 1967, after returning from Tanzania, she told The Sun she would be looking for work in West Africa. Thirty years later, and after 20 years with the U.S. State Department as an administrative foreign service officer, she may get that job with help from President Clinton. On Aug. 29 he nominated Schoonover because of her long service, a White House spokesman said.

If confirmed by the Senate, Schoonover's first year in Togo will be busy.

The United States does almost no commerce with the French-speaking country, which produces cocoa, coffee, cotton and phosphate. But that likely will change.

Military dictator President Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema recently agreed to liberalize the country's economic policies, according to Gwendolyn Mikell, director of Georgetown University's African studies program.

She said that will encourage closer U.S. ties.

Schoonover declined a request for an interview, pending her confirmation hearing.

That hearing could be held as late as January, according to a spokesman for the Senate Foreign Relations Africa Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over Schoonover's nomination.

Pub Date: 9/22/97

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